Bidirectionalization (b18n) is a subset of localization and internationalization technical practices for the locales with right-to-left writing systems. The ultimate goal of b18n is adding features to the software and empowering localization to facilitate inputing and browsing of the text string. These practices ensure proper visual presentation of multi-script content in a right-to-left user interface environment.
HighTech Passport has provided consulting to a wide variety of clients for b18n practices. Here below are examples of bidi projects with PayPal and Crossbeam, presenting major technical issues and concerns:
- For the launch of PayPal services, 1.4 million words were verified for b18n needs and issues, in a tight schedule of less than five months. HighTech Passport Bidi engineering team had first to overcome the lack of support for bidirectional text in the selected CAT tool. This hurdle was overcome by educating the linguists regarding b18n practices, performing vigorous QA and continuous b18n bug fixing during the project.
- HighTech Passport has provided b18n services to various web companies since 2001 for products supporting Arabic, Hebrew, and Urdu. The major challenges of these projects were: dealing with high volume of translation using many different forms of internal variables, adapting the b18n work to relatively short turnaround time allocated to localization, and ensuring bidi support across the internal technology stack specified to the projects.
- Crossbeam, a provider of network security hardware platforms, relied on HighTech Passport b18 services for the release of device user manuals in Hebrew. The nature of the project required a different approach to b18n work. This project had to include b18n support on TM level and to deal with desktop publishing and word processing platforms with no or limited support for bidirectional text. A close collaboration between the DTP team and the b18n engineers ensured a smooth process and reduced the need for fixing styling and formatting issues after translation.
How We See b18n
- Beyond mirroring: although support for bidirectional text starts with mirroring the user interface and re-setting the text direction, there are a huge variety of issues at different levels which can not be addressed by mere mirroring and direction change.
- Know the standards: a deep understanding of the industry standards related to b18n is the most needed perquisite of any work in this field. Using standards and standard libraries enforce the deployment of best practices.
- B18n as an ongoing process: adding new features to the software creates new needs for localization and internationalization B18n in no exception.
- Share the technical knowledge: document the implementations and educate the technical parties involved.
- Test thoroughly with trained eyes: it is easy to overlook b18n-related bugs if the QA/QC staff is not familiar with the common issues and pitfalls.
- Linguists' role: although b18n goes beyond the scope of common linguistic knowledge, it greatly helps to educate the linguists on the major pitfalls to be avoided during translation.
- It is called bidi for a reason: support for right-to-left should not exclude users working with left-to-right software interface. The b18n practices should be integrated in the software in a way to facilitate the use of right-to-left text when the interface is working in both directions.
- B18n affects the user experience of the UI and modifies many aspects of it. This transition raises a need for reviewing and refactoring the usability metrics by a b18n expert.